Similar, But Not The Same

I picked two moderately overpriced used books and I exchanged a few French words with the bouquiniste by the Seine, pleased I could still remember something from a language I once spoke fluently. I shoved the books in my oversized bag, a warm feeling taking over me as I hurried to explore a little bit more. I was only going to be in Paris for a short time, I had to pick and choose what I could do. There simply was no time for shopping, not even for books. But the book stalls by the Seine… one can surely consider that a cultural, or at least touristic, experience. Plus, they would make for good souvenirs, certainly better than fridge magnets.

All fairly similar and unassuming, books were nevertheless unique individuals, each one of them the keeper of a distinct universe, all of them witnesses and providers of new adventures and discoveries. That’s how I saw them growing up. From an early age, they shape our perception of the world; then we shape our own perception of them. First I read anything I could get my hands on; now I’m more selective, there’s not enough time for everything. I used to hoard books; now I only keep those I might read again or that have a special meaning to me, there’s not enough room for all the books. First I preferred new books to old ones, because I only had a few of those; now I still love that new book experience, but there’s something particularly fascinating about an old book – there’s the story in the book and the story of getting the book, there’s its fictional dimension and its adventure in real life and time as well.

Many of the books I own are dear to me because they remind me of who gave them to me or of the context in which I purchased or read them. I now have a couple of books that will always remind me of my own Parisian experience. But aside from the story they tell and the context in which I acquired them, they also remind me of the child I once was. They remind me of my high school French teacher and of all her fascinating stories about the years she lived in Paris. So in a way, those books are her story too.

I admit, I prefer printed books. But, like I said, there is not enough room… Besides, not everything is available in print these days anymore. And it’s not a bad thing, accessibility is certainly an advantage, together with the opportunities it provides. After all, books – in whatever form they came – have been perceived as the materialization of progress and evolution…

The passage of time adds invisible layers to the same old physical or virtual covers, while perspective constantly gains new angles. Apparent similarity can hide such different dimensions…

17 Replies to “Similar, But Not The Same”

    1. Sometimes I feel there’s a special kind of connection that I can only have with a printed book… Than I remind myself I also need to focus on the present and I enjoy the fact that it doesn’t need to be an “either – or” situation 😉 . Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, Y!

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  1. A very interesting post. I used to hoard books as well but now I only have a few shelves of my favorites. And Oh I do prefer having a real book in my hand than an electronic device but sometimes it’s more practical. 🙂

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    1. I’ve actually seen such a house and wow… was it strange… First I couldn’t put my finger on what was missing, then I couldn’t believe it. Apparently the people living there didn’t enjoy reading. What can I say, to each their own…

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